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For convenience in referring to the editor's notes, the numbering is continuous through the book.
It will not be expected, that this preface should furnish an extended biography of Mr. Wheaton; still less, that the editor should enter upon an analysis of his mind, or a eulogy of his merits and services. These have their appropriate places, in which all that his warmest admirers can wish has been said by those best qualified to speak of him.
Nothing more will be undertaken than it may be an assistance to the reader to have at hand, - a history of the work itself, and such a sketch of the author's life as will show his public relations, and in what circumstances and under what influences the book was written.
HENRY WHEATON was born in Providence, Rhode Island, Nov. 27, 1785. His family was one of the most respectable and influential in that State. His father was a merchant of high standing and competent fortune, and was able to give his son the advantages not only of a liberal education, but, what was not so common then as now, of early travel and study in Europe. Mr. Wheaton was educated at Providence College (now Brown University), where he took his degree in 1802. During the next three years, he studied law, and, in 1805, went abroad to complete his studies, and especially to make himself familiar with the languages, history, and literature of Europe. While in France, he gave attention to the subject of the codes, then greatly discussed, and to the international questions that attracted the attention of both worlds; and his letters of introduction were such as to place him on intimate terms with the leading public men of his country then in Europe, – a position which he maintained by his own merits.
On his return to the United States, he entered on the practice of the law in the city of New York. Continuing bis interest in international questions, he published, in 1815, his small work on the Law of Maritime Captures, which gained him an early and lasting reputation. From 1816 to 1997, he was the reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, during what no one can be offended by hearing called the great period of the Federal Bench and Bar. The reporter was the friend and associate of the judges and the most eminent counsel; and, in respect to leaming on foreign and international questions, and general culture, he held an enviable reputation throughout the country. In 1820, he delivered the annual address before the llistorical Society of New York, taking for his subject the science of Public and International Law. This address, with his treatise on Captures, was the germ of his great work. For some time, he was engaged on a commission to revise the statute law of New York, during which he was a diligent student of the subject of codification, and of legislation generally., In 1827, he was appointed, by President Adams, Chargé d'Affaires at the court of Denmark, and resided at Copenhagen until 1835, when he was transferred to Berlin, first as Minister Resident; but the office Wäs afterwards raised to the rank of Plenipotentiary. This post he held until 1846, when his diplomatic career was clued by one of the most unfortunate sacrifices our governnieat ever made to mere party routine.
Notwithstanding his long residence abroad, and at the courts of Europe, his patriotism suffered no diminution: but distance and absence seemed to present his country more as a unit, and with stronger hold on his imagination
and affections; and he preserved not only with fidelity, but enthusiasm, the republican principles with which he began life.
Remaining a year in France, Mr. Wheaton returned to America in 1847. He was at once appointed Lecturer on International Law at Harvard University, and was to have had the professorship, then about to be founded and permanently endowed for him, of Civil and International Law: but rapidly declining health obliged him to break off from all his labors; and he died at Dorchester, in Massachusetts, on the 11th March, 1848.
During the twenty years that Mr. Wheaton resided abroad in the diplomatic service, he was engaged in negotiations of great importance to his own country and Europe. He conducted the well-known controversy respecting the captures at Kiel, which ended in the Treaty of Indemnity of 1830 (see this work, SS 530-537), and led the way to other treaties of indemnity to the United States, based on a similar principle. While at Copenhagen, he was practically the American representative for all Germany, as we had no minister in Prussia or Austria, or any other of the German States; and he gave constant attention to the internal concerns as well as the foreign policy of those powers. For many years he observed carefully the affairs of the Zollverein, and succeeded at last in effecting the treaty of 1814, which was thought by diplomatists and publicists to do him great honor, and the rejection of which by the United States Senate caused him no little regret, — the more, perhaps, from the fact that its defeat was understood to have been an accident of party politics, against the judgment of the ablest men of the country.
The reader of this book will see, at almost every stage in the questions of the last thirty years, traces of the labors of Mr. Wheaton, especially in the subjects of the abolition and capitalizing of the Sound Dues and the Scheldt Dues and the tolls on the Elbe, the extradition of criminals, and the lines of distinction established as to the exemption of naturalized citizens of the United States from certain claims of their former sovereigns. But there was scarcely a topic affecting the interests of his country, or the science of international and public law, or the political and social condition of his kind, in which he did not interest himself; contributing pamphlets to the press, articles to the leading journals of Europe and America, and maintaining a correspondence with the philosophical and literary societies on both sides of the Atlantic, of which he was an honored member. In 1931, he published his valuable History of the Northmen, which was afterwards published in French at Paris. In 1839 appeared the History of Scandinavia, — the joint work of himself and Dr. Crichton.
In 15+1, Mr. Wheaton wrote an essay for a prize offered by the French Institute, on the subject, “ L'Histoire du Droit des Gens en Europe, depuis la Paix de Westphalie ji qu'au Congrès de Vienne.” He afterwards enlarged it into a treatise on the Ilistory of the Law of Nations in Europe and America, from the earliest times to the treaty of Washington in 1812. This was published in English, in New York, in 1815, — the preface being dated at Paris in 1913; and in French, in 1816, at Leipsic and Paris.
To his great work, the Elements of International Law, Mr. Wheaton, in some form or other, gave the greater part of his life after his twenty-fifth year. For the duties of a
commentator on that branch of science, he combined advantages which, in no one of his countrymen, were ever before united. He was familiar with the four languages in which the stores of international law are gathered. He had the early preparatory discipline successively of a practising lawyer, and a reporter of judicial decisions, followed by twenty years of diplomatic experience at one of the political centres of Europe. He maintained an intimate personal acquaintance and familiar correspondence with the most eminent statesmen, publicists, and scholars of Europe and America; and kept himself thoroughly informed of the current history of whatever bore upon the relations of States. In short, he combined the advantages of the discipline of a barrister, the culture of a scholar, the experience of a diplomatist, and the habits of a man of society. And it is no small thing to add, that, to a subject essentially moral, he brought a purity of nature, candor, and fidelity to truth and duty, as remarkable as his learning, industry, and philosophy.
This work, under the title of The Elements of International Law, was first sent to the press in 1836, in two editions, — one at Philadelphia, and the other at London ; the preface being written at Berlin, and dated Jan. 1, 1836.
The third edition was published in Philadelphia in 1846 ; the preface being dated at Berlin, November, 1845.
In 1846 and 1847, Mr. Wheaton prepared an edition in French; the preface being dated at Paris, April 15, 1847, just before his final return to America. It was published it Leipsic and Paris, in 1848, - the year of the author's death,
A second edition of the work, in French, was published